11/07/2009 12:00AM

Vale of York defeats Lookin at Lucky

Barbara D. Livingston
European colt Vale of York, under Ahmed Ajtebi, barely reaches the wire first in the Juvenile.

ARCADIA, Calif. - European invader Vale of York tipped over the form of the North American 2-year-old division Saturday at Santa Anita, where the Godolphin-owned colt sprang a $63.20 upset in the $2 million .

Vale of York won by a head over 2-1 favorite Lookin at Lucky, the previously unbeaten colt whose runner-up finish was the product of a bad trip that he could not overcome. Lookin at Lucky was wide early, in midpack behind a slow pace, rallied wide, and got outfinished from the inside.

Despite losing ground four wide on the first turn, Lookin at Lucky's jockey, Garrett Gomez, said he thought he was in the right spot positioned in midpack.

"The problem was, they weren't going that fast," he said.

In fact, they were crawling. The longshot Piscitelli surprisingly took the early lead and slowed the pace to walk. He went the opening quarter-mile in 24.26 seconds and a half-mile in 48.78.

As the slow fractions foiled the chances of the closers, Vale of York and jockey Ahmed Ajtebi had the best trip. Ajtebi used Vale of York from the gate, tucked fourth on the rail on the first turn, and on the backstretch he snuck up inside to save ground in third position.

Vale of York appeared as if he would be swallowed turning for home, but he re-rallied, angled off the fence, surged inside Lookin at Lucky, and won by a head. An Irish-bred by Invincible Spirit trained by Saeed bin Suroor, Vale of York was winning for the third time in six starts. He finished second last time out in the Group 1 Gran Criterium in Italy. The final time for the 1 1/16 miles was a slow 1:43.78.

Although Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford suggested Vale of York has punched his ticket to the 2010 Kentucky Derby, he recognizes the colt has a long way to go. Vale of York will winter in Dubai, and campaign over the Tapeta surface at the new Meydan racetrack in Dubai.

"Handling synthetic surfaces and then going and racing on dirt are two completely different things," Crisford said. "This horse will not have raced on dirt by the time we get to Churchill Downs, if he gets there."

The same can be said for Lookin at Lucky, who ran the best race and is expected to campaign this winter in California. Caught wide throughout, positioned well behind the slow pace, Lookin at Lucky rallied wide and challenged for the lead in deep stretch but could not withstand the winner, who rallied inside. It was the first loss by Lookin at Lucky in four starts.

"It's over," Lookin at Lucky's Bob Baffert said. "We know we have a legit horse, we just didn't get paid."

The biggest disappointed in the field was D' Funnybone, the New York invader who was dead on the board at 6-1 (from a 5-2 morning line). He pressed the easy pace into the lane, and tired to finish last.

Noble's Promise was well positioned in fourth, but could only muster a third-place finish.

The longshot pacesetter Piscitelli finished fourth. The remaining order of finish was Aikenite, Beethoven, Radiohead, William's Kitten, Eskendereya, Alfred Nobel, Pulsion, Aspire, and D' Funnybone.